Saving the weave through sustainability

Saving the weave through sustainability

The pandemic has clearly taught us to consume consciously. At present productivity and enhanced manufacturing is the goal for all industries. The manufacturing industry gives rise to lots of direct and indirect opportunities.

The pandemic has clearly taught us to consume consciously. At present productivity and enhanced manufacturing is the goal for all industries. The manufacturing industry gives rise to lots of direct and indirect opportunities.

The textile industry in India is one of the earliest to come into existence and it accounts for nearly over 14 per cent of total industrial production and around 30 per cent of total exports. It is the second-largest generator of employment, next to the agricultural sector.

The major parts of the Indian textile sector can be classified as under:

  • Modern Textile Mills,
  • Independent power looms – fully automatic and semi-automatic;
  • Handloom
  • Garments

In India, every place we go, we have a different weave, different fabric, fibres, etc. all developed individually. It takes many millennia to generate this type of ingenuity. But in the name of modernity, we are going towards mass production, machine-made stuff, though these are very essential, yet what is done with the human hand, has a certain beauty, certain aesthetics, and certain expression. The Indian garment industry is a major contributor to the economy and employment and also plays an important role in industrial output and export earnings.

The Indian textile panorama is gradually embarking on the transformation journey across various innovative and new strategies to gain further stature by facing global challenges. Several leading market players have acquired textile companies overseas and entered into joint ventures to strengthen this industry and expand their global outreach.

Affordable fashion and changing scenario

Affordable fashion is an emerging trend for women, men, teenagers, and children. Various companies are now conceiving ideas with a vision and mission to showcase lifestyle brands at cheaper rates. Companies have also started building a portfolio of products and international labels that earn admiration from the customer for the design and quality. New strategies in the manufacturing, retailing, and distribution sectors are being now devised to cater to the emerging westernised style of clothing. Some of these markets were earlier dominated by Chinese and Thai imports, however now this landscape has undergone tremendous changes in the past decade.

Audience preferences

With consumer preferences, the inclination of manufactures towards the supply of products that are in demand scales new heights. Fashion-conscious people often admire design & quality. Some of the garments which are always in demand are winterwear, jackets, sweaters, log coat, sweatshirt, denim, dresses, night suit, cardigans, tops, and tracksuits. People are willing to spend approximately Rs 2000 – Rs 4500 on an average for purchasing jackets, sweaters, log coats, tops, dresses, night suits, tracksuits, and cardigans. People now want an international brand with bold fashion statements and to keep up with the international trends / new styles with experimental fabrics

Distribution channels

In India, there are more than 700 points of sales. The distribution mechanics and the industry, in general, have started focusing on market penetration. Ever since the pandemic, the e-commerce industry has witnessed a boom and thus some of the platforms like glamly, myntra, amazon and ajio have witnessed massive sales.

Supply Chain Management

The majority of manufactures rely on supply chain structure to accelerate businesses. The government is seeking better insights into the challenges faced by supply chain distribution that can improve policy-making decisions. With increased visibility and strong collaborations, the suppliers can widen their scope of business. Artificial intelligence in supply chain is helping to deliver the powerful optimisation capabilities required for more accurate capacity planning, improved productivity, high quality, lower costs, and greater output, all while fostering safer working conditions. Digitisation of industry, or Industry 4.0, is trending in supply chain management. The supply chain today is a series of largely discrete, siloed steps taken through marketing, product development, manufacturing, and distribution, and finally into the hands of the customer. Digitisation brings down those walls, and the chain becomes a completely integrated ecosystem that is fully transparent to all the players involved — from the suppliers of raw materials, components, and parts, to the transporters of those supplies and finished goods, and finally to the customers demanding fulfilment.

Local and sustainable industry challenges

  • Globalisation of business, automation in the power loom sector, and massive production of man-made fibres which are plastic by nature have challenged the existence of handloom industries in India. Various schemes are devised and promulgated by the government in close coordination with the state government. However, the implementation of these schemes have been ineffective.
  • Garment weavers are almost kept uninformed about various schemes and policies. This has caused severe problems to the weaver communities. The wheels of the economic engines have been driven by productivity of machine-made and man-made fabrics, mainly comprising of polyester filament yarns (PFY), and the intense completion with unprecedented zeal to capture the market with unhealthy competition has led to the dwindling of the weaver communities.
  • The handloom sector which contributed to the development of the rural sector for centuries with effective government supports through various policies has suffered due to dwindling support.
  • Handloom sector is seen as a redundant profession and the government started considering it as a burden on their exchequer. Political leadership has also been avoiding taking up the issues of weavers and artisans communities connected to handloom sectors.

Government Support

The central government has started recognising the value of the handloom sector in the sustainable development of the nation. A major source of employment at rural level thereby causing reduction of the migratory labour force. The government of India has started giving budgetary allocations to improve and enhance this handloom sector. At present the government seems to be committed to ensuring a ‘level playing field’ for the handloom sector by ensuring healthy competition.

  • Government should understand the need to strengthen the research, training, and input institutions like NIFT
  • Budgetary allocation for the development of the handloom sector has to be increased by both central and state governments. This allocation would boost up the handloom sector giving better employment opportunities to rural population.
  • Farmers should be encouraged to produce more cotton/jute using organic manures thereby giving rise to the production of organic yarns. Similarly, natural dyes should be produced. Efforts should be made to improve the productivity of the handloom fabrics through innovative techniques and designs. The subsidies are given to power loom and mill sectors to be reduced or eliminated to ensure sustenance of handloom sectors. Further, power looms have been permitted to sell their products by declaring them to be handloom. For example, PFY is sold in the market as synthetic silk, which a common man considers to be original silk.

Circular Economy

Some initiatives are also designed to reduce wastages and carbon footprints. The modern circular economy has been largely benefitted by using methods that are local, basic and environmentally friendly in nature. Such infinities bring forth changes concerning the linear economy by reducing environmental impact by increasing efficiency at all stages of product development. It helps in fitting a framework that works on principles of the green economy while maintaining ecology.

Technology

The technological advancement that the world has experienced over 3 decades have brought the whole world together and the world has become a single platform, offering innumerable opportunities to do business transactions. Quality and price have become the only deciding factor. The countries of the world also came closer due to infrastructure enabling faster travel.

Digitisation

Digitisation has given a chance to expose all of our inventories to all the target market in one go.The working of the supply chain industry is never going to be the same. Digitisation allows companies to adjust products in the supply chain based upon demand for those products using real-time sales information, allowing them to accelerate production of best-sellers and cut their losses on the laggards. The opportunities surrounding digitisation have made it possible for supply chains to access, store and process a large amount of data both from within a firm and externally. For example, manufacturing firms are now able to obtain individualised customer data to personalise the sales process, product design, and service. In a system with end-to-end transparency, every member of every step along the supply chain network will have access to all data.

Artificial Intelligence

Digitising processes can enable improved visibility and provide real-time insights into the supply chain, giving people along the chain full control. Automation is the most important benefit of using AI to control supply chains. For instance, an AI-powered warehouse mainly relies on robots to store, locate, and pick goods. Pre-programmed machines can do it routinely, thus speeding up the packaging processes and taking productivity to a whole new level. Virtual reality can improve supply chain operations in four main areas: product and process design, data and process visualisation, employee collaboration, and experience-based learning. Digital Supply Networks (DSN) are increasingly in focus as they provide an opportunity to exponentially improve efficiency and effectiveness in the supply chain, optimise cost and obtain end-to-end visibility.

How is this going to impact the business of sourcing? According to Mckinsey Digital, AI-powered forecasting can reduce errors by 30 to 50 per cent in supply chain networks. The improved accuracy leads up to a 65 per cent reduction in lost sales due to inventory out-of-stock situations and warehousing costs decrease around 10 to 40 per cent. The new market will deal with integrated planning and execution.logistics visibility procurement 4.0, smart warehousing,efficient spare parts management, autonomous and B2C logistics andprescriptive supply chain analytics.

Use of technical machinery

The government is constantly working towards a synergic and robust development of the sector. Technical textiles have now penetrated across various sectors with their wide scope and fast-growing usage in construction, agriculture, sports apparel, healthcare, etc. With modernisation and innovation towards meeting the competitiveness of manufacturing businesses, India has been a strong contender in this progressive economical spurt. The world is progressing at a fast rate and thus the dependency on machines for generating fabric that is high in demand has led to the use of international types of machinery. Many companies are using Italian automatic cutting and spreader machines which helps in the accuracy of cutting and make control of wastage. Similarly, Italian automatic washers help in making the feel of the first and the last garment the same and also save water wastage. A system called CAD processes maximum efficiency of any design and 12 colours. A M&R automatic printing machine which helps in printing fine design with quality. Easy technical designs can be generated through a computerised sweater knitting machine which helps in increasing production.

Dealing with competition

The boom of businesses across the globe had its own drawbacks, whereby competition got more and more intense. Many business enterprises collapsed and many new ones succeeded. The cyclical pattern of the economic engine of the world supplemented by intense competition gave rise to various ailments caused mainly due to stress and depression. This was the clear indication that, if we continue in a “business as usual” mode, there is going to be a major disaster in twenty to thirty years.

Pandemic scenario

It sometimes becomes essential that we should thank the virus for pressing the pause button, by compulsorily causing the lock-down situation, life gave a chance for all to fix the economic engine. We all know that a running engine can never be refurbished and re-fixed. This pandemic gave enough opportunity for the whole of humanity to think deeper consciously.

Consuming Consciously

The pandemic has clearly taught us to consume consciously. At present productivity and enhanced manufacturing is the goal for all industries. The manufacturing industry gives rise to lots of direct and indirect opportunities. The prosperity of an individual is measured by the number of amenities one possesses and the need for amenities including necessities keeps on increasing, causing us to rip apart the planet. Hence conscious consumption becomes the first mantra due to the pandemic. If we function at least ten percent more consciously than the way we are functioning right now, the post-COVID world will be a fantastic one.

Reduce wastage

The majority of brands have started focussing on creating innovative designs that minimise textile waste in the manufacturing process. A lot of research and experiments are being made with recycled materials and by reusing unusual materials that speak to the local culture. Globally, every industry is trying to reduce the carbon footprint by at least 80 per cent and then become a carbon negative company by 2030

Sustainability

Cultivating sustainable and green practices helps organisations become more efficient, competitive, and profitable. It’s more than simply “a good thing to do.” Many organisations have launched a specialised clothing line that uses recycled fabrics and organic cotton. Some of them use organic and natural dyes to support traditional craft techniques. For the past couple of years, the government of India has been striving very hard to promote and develop handloom sectors by providing various assistances to handloom weavers like input support, marketing support, publicity, development of exportable products, etc. Hence a lot of brands are now working towards making raw materials more environmentally friendly. Sustainable fashion is a philosophy and growing movement towards environmentally-friendly fashion. Most people are committed to providing environmentally friendly fashion and spreading awareness by constantly looking for ways to redefine fashion by creating beautiful ethical products.

A viable rise in demand

Another crucial aspect that is often ignored is the indigent market for environmentally friendly clothing and products. However, there have been posing challenges towards improving global recycling rates. Every industry needs to focus on driving demand and creating a market that supports intriguing patterns for recycling.

Most fabrics can be customised as per the manufacturer’s demand which often leads to a complicated recycling process. However, it can be added in the end-to-end product development cycle to maintain the process cycle that supports sustainability. Awareness and sustainability along with collaborations can go a long way in creating a framework that protects the system responsibly.

Roadmap ahead

Sustainable textiles constitute part of the rich cultural heritage of India. The art and craft present in the textiles make it affordable for every stratum of the society in the national and international markets. Today, with the active involvement of the government and through their concerted efforts, this sector is trying to come out of the problems. Yet lot needs to be done. Both the consumers and organisations including fashion designers and investors should pitch in their support to enhance the productivity of handloom and locally sourced fabrics.

Branded products that have become a cuss word of the youth could be encouraged to focus more and more on natural fibre-based apparel. Similarly, we could work with hospitality industries that welcome tourists from other parts of the world. Wherever possible, handloom fabrics should be developed. Branded products that have become a cuss word of the youth could be encouraged to focus more and more on natural fibre-based apparel. Similarly, we could work with hospitality industries that welcome tourists from other parts of the world. Wherever possible, handloom fabrics should be developed.

About the author: 

Akhil Jain, Executive Director, Madame is a spirited fashion aficionado and an avid traveller. He represents the 4th generation in a decades-long family- run business, in the hosiery and retail industry in Ludhiana. A fashion designer from NIFT, New Delhi, Jain combines over 8 years of designing, marketing and business development experience.

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